Indian Cove at Joshua Tree National Park
Indian Cove Campground is a section of Joshua Tree National Park accessed by its own entrance to the Park. It sits a few miles from the town of Twentynine Palms, a good fifteen to twenty minutes from the main park entrance in the town of Joshua Tree.
Indian Cove sits at a lower elevation than most of JTNP, and tends to have warmer temperatures in the colder, windier desert months. Generally, Joshua Trees do not grow at this lower elevation, so the main vegetation includes creosote and yucca. The area is, also, surrounded by the Park’s iconic monzogranite rock formations and home to many interesting desert dwellers, including desert tortoise, coyote, kangaroo rats, rattle snakes, bats, and jackrabbits.
To learn more about the natural and human history of Joshua Tree National Park, check out a Visitor Center. The center located in the town of Joshua Tree on Park Blvd. is on the way to Indian Cove from Los Angeles, and includes a little souvenir gift shop. Across the street is a funky, little store, called Coyote Corner, for your desert hippie fix and other Joshua Tree memorabilia.
Indian Cove Campground is a good camping option during peak season, when campgrounds in the main park are full. All campsites require a reservation, but on any given day, they will give away cancelled sites to campers standing in line at the Ranger’s station at noon on the day.
This campground has a water available, but only from one spigot at the Ranger Station. The Ranger Station is only a couple of miles from the campground and easily spotted during your drive in to the campground.
Also, note, that cell service is not available in these campgrounds, except for, maybe, a spotty signal at one corner of Group Sites One and Two. A short drive down the road towards town, will get you to spot where you can fully connect.
Most campsites are fairly large, and include a picnic table and fire pit with grill. The pit toilets and trashcans are easily found, just follow your nose.
If you need town supplies, head to Twentynine Palms for a grocery store, only because it’s closer, and to Joshua Tree for a restaurant, only because there are more choices. It is worth knowing about Crossroads Cafe, a local favorite with climbers and campers, and a newer pizza joint, Pie for the People.
Twentynine Palms is home to The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. It’s useful to know that training exercises can be detected, on occasion, with the sounds of distant booms across the desert.
There are two short, formal hikes in Indian Cove. First, there is a short interpretive trail just out past the last group campsite in Indian Cove. Signs along the walk inform explorers about the desert environment. The second notable hike in the area is Rattlesnake Canyon. It is described by americansouthwest.net as, “1.2 miles, to where the canyon becomes blocked by large boulders. Off trail route up a narrow granite ravine that includes a shallow slot section, into the north side of the Wonderland of Rocks.” Both spots are worth exploring.
Popular group climbing spots include Morbid Mound, Hodgepodge Rock, Feudal Wall, Short Wall, Pixie Rock, and Jailhouse Rock. Organized, guided groups use these rock formations, so be aware that they can be crowded at times.
The drive time from Ventura to Indian Cove is three and a half hours without traffic. However, traffic is rarely light, so it is more of a four hour drive, on the average.
Follow freeway signs, starting in Ventura on the 101 South. Take it to the 134 East to the 210 East through Pasadena, to the 10 East towards San Bernardino. Once you see the giant wind machines in the desert, exit Highway 62 towards 29 Palms/Joshua Tree/Morongo Valley/Yucca Valley. Take Highway 62 to the town of Joshua Tree and past the the main entrance to Joshua Tree National Park at Park Blvd. Continue towards Twentynine Palms about 12 miles, keeping a close eye out for a small brown sign, on the side of the highway, for Indian Cove Campground.